Saturday, September 20, 2003

Ashcroft breaks his Ninth Commandment

Being Catholic, it would be "my" Eighth, but who's counting?

Well, supposedly, Ashcroft was counting, but he came up with zero. Zero times, that is, that the DOJ had invoked Section 215 of the PATRIOT Act. And, after releasing that info, he got pissy.

The attorney general followed with a sarcastic harangue of critics of the Patriot Act. "The charges of the hysterics are revealed for what they are: castles in the air," he scoffed. "Built on misrepresentation. Supported by unfounded fear. Held aloft by hysteria." And he continued: "Allow me to take a moment to clarify who should, and who should not, be worried about these tools in the hands of law enforcement. If you are spending a lot of time surveilling nuclear power plants with your al Qaeda pals, you might be a target of the Patriot Act. If your idea of a vacation is two weeks in a terrorist training camp, you might be a target of the Patriot Act. If you have cave-side dinners with a certain terrorist thug named bin Laden . . . if you enjoy swapping recipes for chemical weapons from your 'Joy of Jihad' cookbook . . . you might be a target of the Patriot Act."

Yuk. Yuk. Yuk.

Unfortunately for AG Ashcroft, one of his own employees has already said that those hysterical castles might have a bit more solid foundation than he would like us to believe. The Liquid List reminds us that the Assistant Attorney General, Viet Dinh has already said that it was used 50 times.

But wait, say librarians. It was actually at least 85 times, and that was over a year ago!

My question is this: Since Ashcroft has declassified this number, then are libraries still gagged by the PATRIOT Act? Can they come out and tell us how many times they've been asked for info? Or does Ashcroft just get to lie and hold the threat of prosecution over the heads of the only people who can really call him on it?

As Atrios says, get this man under oath. And pronto.

(Links to Liquid List and TalkLeft via Atrios.)


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